Big Night is a 1996 American comedy-drama film directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci. Produced by David Kirkpatrick and Jonathan Filley for the Samuel Goldwyn Company, the film was met with positive reviews and grossed $14 million worldwide. It was nominated for the "Grand Jury Prize" at the Sundance Film Festival and the "Grand Special Prize" at the Deauville Film Festival.
Scott and Tucci won the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best New Director. Tucci and Joseph Tropiano won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. Tucci heads the cast, with Tony Shalhoub, Minnie Driver and Isabella Rossellini.
On the New Jersey Shore in the 1950s, two Italian immigrant brothers from Abruzzo own and operate a restaurant called "Paradise." One brother, Primo, is a brilliant, perfectionist chef who chafes under their few customers' expectations of "Americanized" Italian food. Their uncle's offer for them to return to Rome to help with his restaurant is growing in appeal to Primo. The younger brother, Secondo, is the restaurant manager, a man enamored of the possibilities presented by their new endeavor and life in America. Despite Secondo's efforts and Primo's magnificent food, their restaurant is failing.
Secondo's struggles as a businessman render him unable to commit to his girlfriend Phyllis, and he has recently been sleeping with Gabriella, the wife of a competitor. Her husband's eponymous restaurant, "Pascal's", has succeeded despite (or perhaps due to) the mediocre, uninspired food served there. Desperate to keep Paradise afloat, Secondo asks Pascal for a loan. Pascal demurs, repeating a past offer for the brothers to work for him. This Secondo refuses to do; he and his brother want their own restaurant. In a seemingly generous gesture, Pascal insists that he will persuade popular Italian-American singer Louis Prima to dine at Paradise when in town, assuming the celebrity jazz singer's patronage will revitalize the brothers' business. Primo and Secondo plunge themselves into preparation for this "big night", spending their entire savings on food and inviting people (including a newspaper reporter) to join them in a magnificent feast centered around a timballo, a complicated baked pasta dish. Primo pours his heart into every dish, lavishing care and great expertise on the cooking.
As they wait for Prima and his entourage to arrive, the diners indulge in the exquisite food and partake in a fabulous celebration. Hours pass, however, and it becomes apparent that the famous singer is not coming. Phyllis catches Secondo and Gabriella kissing and runs off to the beach. At Gabriella's insistence, Pascal admits that he never called Louis Prima, thus ending the party.
Secondo follows Phyllis to the beach where they have a final quarrel. Primo and Secondo have a fiery, heart-wrenching argument, chafing at their mutual differences. In the wee hours of the morning, Pascal admits to Secondo that he set the brothers up for failure; not as revenge for Secondo's affair with Gabriella but because the brothers would have no choice but to return to Italy or work for Pascal. Secondo denies him, saying they will never work for him.
As dawn breaks, Secondo silently cooks an omelette. When done, he divides it among three plates, giving one to Cristiano, their waiter, and eating one himself. Primo hesitantly enters, and Secondo hands him the last plate. They eat without speaking, and lay their arms across one another's shoulders, then the movie abruptly ends.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 96% based on 55 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The sites critical consensus reads, "The performances in Big Night are wonderful, and the food looks delicious." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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